The 2023 Toronto Blue Jays roster is shaping up nicely.
The recent additions of Brandon Belt, Daulton Varsho and Chris Bassitt are signs that the team means business. Add in the permanent appointment of John Schneider and the hire of Don Mattingly and even the more pessimistic Jays’ fans must be feeling a twinge of excitement.
However, every professional sports roster has its flaws, some more so than others, and the 2023 Blue Jays are no different. That doesn’t mean to say that the flaws will necessarily undermine the team this year.
The Toronto Front Office has clearly gone into the offseason with a plan, including areas for improvement and positions for upgrade. If that plan pays off and the Blue Jays make a nice run into the playoffs then the potential pitfalls will have been overshadowed by the numerous strengths of this roster.
On the flip side, if the team falls short and an inquest begins - what are the most likely causes?
This is the obvious answer to why any team’s season might fall apart. Injuries are difficult to predict, they come in all forms and can impact a team differently depending on the spacing of them and which players miss time.
Two of Toronto’s newest arrivals come into the season off the back of injury hit seasons. Both Kevin Kiermaier and Brandon Belt are currently slated as everyday guys, with the former playing at center field and the latter serving as a left-handed power bat at DH.
Belt is coming off knee surgery, the third of his career, in order to clean out cartilage and scar tissue. At 34 years old the hard hitting first baseman is clearly hoping to enjoy a strong season to pick up a last significant payday. The Jays would love it if he was able to get back to his 2016 form (17 HR - 82 RBI), but recurring injuries can be difficult to overcome - something possibly reflected in Belt’s one year deal in Toronto.
Kiermaier has only played in 158 games across the last two seasons, after injuries to his hip and knee. He hasn’t played in more than 129 games in one season since 2015, but despite this it appears that the Jays expect him to marshall the outfield on a pretty regular basis this season.
Add into the mix the recent injury history of George Springer, Hyun Jin Ryu’s continued absence and the 70 days that Danny Jansen missed on the IL last year and the Jays have a few players accustomed to trips to the medical room.
The outfield is where the injury question mark looms the largest, if Kiermaier or Springer were to miss time then the current replacement options are Cavan Biggio and Whit Merrifield. Either would be a slight downgrade on Kiermaier’s defense or a significant drop off when compared to Springer’s offensive prowess. Surely this points to one more addition before the season starts?
Despite the history of a few of their players, there is a reason to be positive for the Jays. Last season Toronto players lost the second fewest number of games to injury and time on the IL, with a total of 616. Will the recent additions jeopardize that good fortune? Only time will tell.